Just because a trend is dated doesn’t mean it’s bad. After all, Louis XIV lived in the 17th century, and look how crazy people go over his favorite furnishings.
Although designers will say that good design is timeless, it’s too late for all those homeowners who were ripping out their vintage Mid-Century Modern accents for decades until “Mad Men” made the 1960s cool again. Now even wood-paneled walls, which those of us who grew up in the ’70s love to hate, are coming back in a new, stylish way (and our kids will probably tear it out in 20 years’ time).
Of course, not every interior design trend needs a revival. Absolutely no one wants popcorn ceilings back. But these seven retro looks are either clawing their way back toward popularity—or (fingers crossed) they will be soon.
This intricate design grew popular in the late 19th century and enjoyed an Art Deco-inspired resurgence during the 1920s. Today, this mottled black-and-brown pattern is a classic for spectacles, shoes, and hair combs—but why did it disappear from our decor? (To be clear, we’re not asking designers to poach the endangered hawksbill sea turtle to make our living rooms great again.)
Today’s white walls and minimalist designs are the perfect backdrop for complex, dark motifs. Choose a small accent, like this tortoiseshell vase or inlaid mirror. Or if you’re feeling daring, tortoiseshell tiling makes a bold addition to a bath. Pair with simple marble tile, crisp walls, and bronze accents to create a funky, elegant washroom. Designers have just started poking around with tortoiseshell accents, so risk-takers get the joy of being trend-setters.
1930s: Stained glass
We’re all about our double-paned glass and our energy-efficient windows, but the downside to such practical choices is that modern windows lack interest and excitement. Most homeowners only consider stained glass if they’ve purchased a vintage beauty, but it works just as beautifully inside a contemporary space.
Trendsetters have already received the memo, incorporating stained glass into furniture and accessories, but with some modern twists.
While it might cost a pretty penny, most cities have studios that can create custom stained glass designs that fit your home’s style—no matter which century inspired you. Simple designs in bright, cheerful colors perk up a pared-down space, and quirky, geometric designs bring life to a boring transom. But be prepared: Stained glass windows are less energy-efficient. Work with your installer to create a solution that works for you.
1940s: Colored milk glass
If you haven’t spent much time thinking about ’40s decor, you’re in good company. Similar to the ’70s, the pre-Mid-Century decade loved weird floor plans and too much green. But they did one thing right: colored milk glass.
Vintage collectors can spend some serious coin hunting down authentic Anchor Hocking jadeite glassware on eBay and Etsy. Traditional milk glass is white, but colored alternatives—like the hyperpopular jade version and its twin sister, azurite—are coveted by collectors and vintage enthusiasts. But their subdued hues and gorgeous designs make them an ideal addition to today’s all-white kitchens, which desperately need a touch of color.
Unless you’re willing to jump in with the auction crowds, finding colored milk glass today can be a challenge. But done correctly, it complements even the most modern kitchen and works effortlessly in farmhouse-style homes.
1950s: Bold kitchens
When it comes to outfitting our home in ’50s decor, we often veer toward the always popular Mid-Century Modern—with a few cases of full-on Mamie Eisenhower pink. But there’s one Mid-Century trend that gets the sledgehammer whenever vintage homes change hands: colorful kitchens, painted in bright yellows, greens, or blues.
Not that white kitchens aren’t lovely—they’re clean, minimalist, and right now, both classic and trendy. But from the subway tile to the crisp Corian countertops, there’s no denying they all kind of look the same.
Mid-Century kitchens were swathed in color, from the fridge to the countertops to the cabinetry. And while there’s no need to paint everything the same color, a bold accent color can make food prep far more interesting. We know we’re part of a fringe movement with our pleas for more color in the kitchen, but we predict that will change soon—experts say the days of cautious kitchen design are numbered.
1960s: Patterned wallpaper
Sometime around the turn of this century, we all collectively decided to spend 70 billion hours scraping off the garish wallpaper that had plagued our homes for many, many decades. That left us rather hesitant to turn around and slather on such a risky decor choice again.But wallpaper is making a comeback, taking cues from inspired designers of the ’60s (and early ’70s) who created delightful patterns that made for a killer accent wall. Sure, their designs featured way too much brown and orange—hardly anyone’s favorite color this side of 2000—but they were playful, funky, and geometric.
You can modernize the look by swapping in white and gold for the outdated shades, or go wild with bright colors and fun patterns to bring quirky ’60s style to your modern abode. And don’t worry about the sweat: Many of today’s wallpapers are significantly easier to remove.
1970s: Avocado green
Avocado is the best fruit. Why is it a curse word when it comes to paint?
Hear us out. Yes, avocado green was possibly one of the worst decor ideas of the ’70s. But subtract the burnt-orange carpeting, the outdated faux-veneer wood-paneled walls, and it’s almost attractive.
Paired with wooden beams, it’s downright modern. Subdue it a little—ask your favorite paint store to mix in some white. Start small and paint your cabinets or cover your favorite bookshelf. But don’t you dare match it with brass. Please don’t buy avocado carpets. And no, the world isn’t ready for a guacamole-inspired armchair.
Finally, the comeback we’ve been eagerly awaiting—chintz. Yeah, you read that right. We’re thrilled this look is making its return to the decor world. Sure, done improperly, it feels like your grandma’s house. Paired with dark woods, it can feel downright ridiculous. And if you’re ostentatious enough to pair it with another pattern (or, God forbid, another chintz pattern), it can make your eyes bleed.
But by selecting large-scale, graphic fabrics and wallpapers, the outdated floral pattern fits right in on Pinterest. That’s because the ’80s had the right idea with flowers. They’re elegant, flirty, and nice to look at. And when wintertime comes, it might just feel a bit like spring.